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Obama scores China bullying in South China Sea

/ 04:43 AM April 11, 2015
President Barack Obama speaks during a nationally televised address from the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014. Spurning furious Republicans, President Barack Obama unveiled expansive executive actions on immigration Thursday night to spare nearly 5 million people in the U.S. illegally from deportation and refocus enforcement efforts on "felons, not families."  (AP Photo/Jim Bourg, Pool)

President Barack Obama. AP FILE PHOTO

KINGSTON, Jamaica—US President Barack Obama said Washington is concerned China is using its “sheer size and muscle” to push around smaller nations in the South China Sea, just hours after Beijing gave a detailed defense of its creation of artificial islands in the contested waterway.

China’s rapid reclamation around seven reefs in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea has alarmed other claimants, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, and drawn growing criticism from US government officials and the military.

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While the new islands will not overturn US military superiority in the region, workers are building ports and fuel storage depots and possibly two airstrips that experts have said would allow Beijing to project power deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.

“Where we get concerned with China is where it is not necessarily abiding by international norms and rules, and is using its sheer size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions,” Obama told a town-hall event in Jamaica on Thursday ahead of a Caribbean summit in Panama.

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“We think this can be solved diplomatically, but just because the Philippines or Vietnam are not as large as China doesn’t mean that they can just be elbowed aside,” he said.

The United States has no claim of its own, but broadly supports its Asian allies against Chinese pressure and has asserted that freedom of navigation is in its national interest.

China rejoinder

Beijing immediately rejected Obama’s comments, saying it only seeks peace in the South China Sea.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Friday that China advocated talks to resolve tensions between rival claimants to the strategic waters and island groups.

“I think you will agree with me that China has been a robust force for the preservation and promotion of peace and stability in the South China Sea,” she said.

In an apparent reference to the United States, Hua said: “I think everybody can clearly see who has the biggest size and muscle in the world.”

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READ: China says it’s a robust force for peace in South China Sea

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TAGS: Barack Obama, Beijing, Center for Strategic and International Studies, flotilla of Chinese vessels, Hua Chunying, Mischief Reef, Panama, Panganiban Reef, South China Sea, Spratly archipelago, Spratlys, UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Unclos, West Philippine Sea
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